Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finding Clarity in a Mountain of Trash

Two years ago, the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR) announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the reconstruction of the Lookout Trash Transfer Station (LOTS). Even though NPAR was aware that the MoU carried little or no weight, NPAR still presented it as some kind of achievement. I was skeptical. Here's what I had to say about the MoU at the time:
Don't let the fact that the agreement is "tentative" worry you. Or that the guarantee is "implicit." Don't mind that "there are still questions as to the legal teeth" of the understanding. Trust that capacity will be capped at 625 tons even though "NTMWD has rejected any stipulation to permanently restrict capacity." Ignore the fact that, on their own websites, neither COR nor NTMWD admits to any commitments, or even mentions an agreement at all.
Source: Mark Steger.
After the jump, NPAR finally appears to get the clarity they somehow missed two years ago.

Here's what NPAR posted on its website this month:
Clarity is always a good thing. Painful at times, but it helps to set a course of action. The public hearing in early October on the permit application for the LOTS expansion, gave us just that. The NTMWD through the voice of General Manager, Joe Stankiewicz stated loud and clear: "The MoU is not legally binding."

Peppered with remarks like "I don’t know and I can’t remember" when speaking to their own projections for trash intake, was NTMWD's open acknowledgment to it's lack of commitment to the MoU. So does that mean the District intends to follow the through with what they agreed to in the MoU? Answer: "It is a non-binding agreement." Period.

There you have it. The NTMWD doesn't have to follow the MoU because they are not legally obligated to do so. Which of course was the whole point of the last four years-to put some legal teeth into protecting the surrounding neighborhoods.
Source: NPAR.
How you look at this MoU depends on whether you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person. NPAR can either get some satisfaction that they got a thorough airing of their grievances over the trash transfer station and that the redesign incorporated some of their careabouts. Or they can continue to fret that the MoU itself is not legally binding and that they won't get everything they wanted.

Unfortunately, the MoU was never going to be the legal commitment NPAR wanted. To the extent that this battle created a hostile relationship between NPAR and government, no government body is going to want to work with NPAR in future. There's truth in the old saying, you can't fight city hall. It's not as pithy a saying, but even though you can't fight 'em, you can work with 'em by getting involved in a constructive fashion early, widely, and continuously. That's a course of action that works best for all.

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